The coronavirus lockdown has been extended by 19 more days across India, but no one can say with certainty that this is the last leg of the lockdown to contain the pandemic’s spread. The tally for confirmed coronavirus cases has crossed 11,000 cases in our country, and its repercussions on the economy are now beginning to show. I opened my Twitter yesterday, to multiple accounts of job and pay cuts. Most people are on the edge of their seats, completely clueless about how things will unfold on the work front. International Monetary Fund has warned in a blog that we may be in for the worst economic downturn in history, since the Great Depression. “For the first time since the Great Depression both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies are in recession,” Gita Gopinath writes. Then a social media user posted a very uncomfortable question, that many of us do not want to think about right now: for how long can we continue to pay our maids, despite their absence from work, under the current circumstance?
- Coronavirus lockdown has been extended by 19 more days in India.
- This means that our maids won't be back at work at least till 3 May.
- How many people will pay the full salary for April to their house help? How many will continue to do so, if the lockdown gets extended further?
- Knowing that financial struggles are inevitable for many of us in the future, can we continue supporting our maids?
For people facing a financial crisis and depleting savings morality is a luxury they cannot afford.
With our jobs on the line and inflation, pay cuts seeming to be an inevitable reality, this is a very valid question. By the time the lockdown was put into effect in India, many of us had already sent our maids on leave, assuring them that their salaries won’t be cut for the duration of their absence. It was just a matter of a couple of weeks, we can surely afford this, we told ourselves. Gradually we divided household chores among us and Instagram was flooded with memes and jokes about missing your bais under the lockdown. But things have taken a turn for worse ever since.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus that stood at 519 as of 24 March, according to the BBC, the day the lockdown was announced, have escalated to 11,439 as of 15 April, with 377 reported deaths. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech, announcing the extension, that some relaxations may be allowed in places that weren’t a COVID-19 hotspot after April 20, if you are living in a metro, you know that is not happening for you. We also do not know what will happen if we fail to flatten the curve in these 19 days.
Which is where the question of paying maids, nannies, house help, that no longer can work for us comes into question. But is there a simple answer as yes and no here? For people facing a financial crisis and depleting savings morality is a luxury they cannot afford. Perhaps the house members can continue to pitch in for chores until things get back on track. I think the answer also differs depending on whether you had house help for basic chores such as cleaning the floor and washing dishes or clothes, versus if you had a full-time maid or nanny, which naturally costs more. How many people can afford to fork out the salary they have been offering to their 9 to 5 maids along with the rising cost of grocery, bills and EMIs that still need to be paid? Despite knowing that under current circumstances you can do without their help for months to come, even when the lockdown is over. Office spaces won’t open up for business the very next day this lockdown ceases. Besides, we are possibly looking at a permanent shift in the work culture, which may cause a lot of us to stay at home more than we are used to.
The underprivileged in any society suffer the worst of consequences when tragedies such as this unleash themselves.
The answer may differ for every family, as per geography, means of livelihood and dynamics in a household. But at least for the time being, those of us who can, must pay our household help their monthly salary. Even if they haven’t come to work for a single day this month. Even if we may know that we might not get to avail their services for the coming month as well. The underprivileged in any society suffer the worst of consequences when tragedies such as this unleash themselves. The mindset shifts from benevolence to individual survival instinctively. But we have to retain our compassion for those who need our help right now. Maybe you cannot afford to feed migrant families stuck in your area. But you can provide aid to your house help. Do it not just because that's the right thing to do. Do it because the children are watching and this crisis and our resultant actions will shape them in ways we cannot comprehend yet.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The views expressed are the author's own.